Classic performances turned in by veterans in last UFC card of year
In its 41st event of the year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship put a cap on 2020 with a 12-fight card to get the organization to 456 total fights for the year.
Some notable veterans put on some classic performances to turn away young talent in order to ensure there would be no changing of the guard.
Welterweight Stephen Thompson, bantamweight Jose Aldo and welterweight Anthony Pettis all attempted to turn back the hands of time in their winning efforts.
The No.5-ranked Thompson took on No. 11 Geoff Neal over a year after his last bout due to breaking both of his hands in his last fight.
With 10 knockdowns, the 37-year old Thompson is tied for third-most in UFC welterweight history while sporting a 78.1 percent takedown defense (third-highest in welterweight division).
As a kickboxer, Thompson went 57-0.
Neal, on the other hand, signed with the organization in 2018 and has since turned in five wins in five fights including four stoppages on his way to seven straight wins.
He has the highest knockdown rate of all active fighters with 2.25 every 15 minutes.
In his first main event, Neal entered as a -115 favorite against Thompson, who was entering his seventh main event spot for the UFC.
Movement was key early for Thompson, as it often is, using push kicks to create space between him and his opponent.
As Neal attempted to work around those kicks, Thompson began to pick him off with counterpunches.
Before the end of the round, both fighters came together for a clash of heads which resulted in a cut near the right eye on both fighters.
Thompson used high-low combinations with his hands and feet using his karate style while continuing to counter Neal on the way in.
With the cut getting progressively worse, Neal mounted some offense in the third round initiating some clinchwork near the fence.
Outside of that burst, Thompson continued to be fluid with his flurries finishing the last 60 seconds of the round appearing to win him third.
Thompson found more success in the fourth round, this time with a straight right hand on multiple occasions.
The fifth round saw both fighters exchange in the pocket for the first 25 seconds with Neal looking for a finish sensing he was down on the cards.
All three judges awarded Thompson the 50-45 unanimous decision ahead of UFC President Dana White and the company granted him his seventh performance bonus of his career.
He came in with the fourth-most performance bonuses in UFC welterweight history.
Thompson outworked Neal throwing 223 more total strikes than his opponent while landing 81 more than his foe.
In addition, “Wonderboy” landed 171 significant strikes with 165 coming from distance.
He landed at least 25 significant strikes in every round before ending the fight with 48 in the final round.
Thompson is now 16-4-1 in his career and admitted to wanting to fight No. 4 welterweight Jorge Masvidal next, whom he defeated back in late 2017.
Masvidal has expressed interest in a fight with No. 1 welterweight Colby Colvington.
Neal is now 13-3 in his professional career after snapping a seven-fight win streak.
On the other hand, Aldo ended a three-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision win over No. 15 Marlon “Chito” Vera.
Aldo defended his No. 7 ranking in the bantamweight division after notching his first win at 135 pounds.
He used the method of taking the center of the octagon as he has done for most of his career, launching left hooks and a straight right hand to the body of Vera.
The second round saw Aldo throw more combos with Vera walking forward.
However, Vera gained the dominant position along the cage and ended the round on the offensive landing elbows in the clinch.
Looking to build off that ending, Vera charged forward on Aldo which he responded with a body lock.
Aldo (29-7) eventually got to Vera’s back and attempted a rear-naked choke, which would have been just his second submission win in his 17-year career.
The dominant round propelled Aldo to a 29-28 unanimous decision on all three scorecards, winning his first fight since February 2019.
Vera (16-7) is now 1-2 in his last three fights after winning five straight bouts.
Number 13-ranked welterweight Anthony “Showtime” Pettis secured a unanimous decision victory over Alex Morono after nearly finishing the fight with a spinning wheel kick with thirty seconds left in the contest.
That finish came nearly 10 years to the day of his “Showtime kick” on Benson Henderson in the final WEC event.
Pettis (24-10) has now won back-to-back fights before announcing his intention to move back down to the lightweight division.
Welterweight Khaos Williams lost his second professional fight via unanimous decision to Michel Pereira.
It was his first loss in the UFC after winning his first two in 27 and 30 seconds respectively.
Heavyweight Greg Hardy was also finished for the first time in his career, losing via TKO to Marcin Tybura in the second round with 29 seconds left.
He is now 2-2 in his last four fights.